Companies in these industries more likely to sponsor H1B for international students

Jobs for international master’s degree holders, particularly in the US, is a lottery. International students who want to stay on and work in the US for more than a year after graduation are at the mercy of a H1B lottery visa system.

A graduate from a top business school, for example, will need to first find a potential employer who is willing to sponsor him or her, apply for a work visa, and then hope to win the visa lottery.

H1B Visa policy stops recruiters from hiring more international postgraduates

Often, because of the visa conundrum, potential employers are hesitant to sponsor international graduates. A university representative points out that companies invest heavily in talent acquisition, and pursuing an international candidate can be risky because of the visa lottery.

If a candidate fails to get a visa, the company loses time and money. Therefore, only larger companies, with legal and financial resources, rather than smaller companies, plan to hire foreign master’s degree holders who require work-permits/visas.

Participating in the Graduate Management Admission Council’s Corporates Recruitment Survey, some companies pointed out that there were also language barriers, cultural hurdles, the future status of candidates, and security issues in hiring international candidates.

Plans for hiring international candidates

Sector Will hire in 2016
(% of companies)
Willing to consider hiring
(% of companies)
No plans to hire
(% of companies)
Consulting 33% 20% 47%
Manufacturing 29% 22% 49%
Technology 27% 39% 34%
Finance 26% 29% 45%
Products/services 18% 31% 50%
Energy/utilities 17% 31% 52%
Healthcare / Pharma 11% 31% 57%

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100 due to rounding. Latin America not included because of lack of response.

Source: 2016 Corporate Recruiters Survey, Graduate Management Admission Council


Companies willing to take the H1B sponsorship risk to hire international students

Nonetheless, many companies are ready to take the visa risk in pursuit of their chosen candidates. According to the 2016 Corporates Recruiters Survey Report, 25 percent of employers in the US have specific plans to hire international candidates who require legal documentation such as work permits or H1-B visas, compared with 22 percent in Europe and 19 percent in Asia-Pacific.

Additionally, 24 percent of companies in the US, 47 percent in Europe, and 40 percent in Asia-Pacific are willing to consider (that is, they don’t have specific plans, yet) hiring international candidates who require visas.

Now the bad news: 51 percent of US companies have no plans to hire international candidates; 32 percent of companies in Europe and 40 percent of companies in Asia-Pacific also have no recruitment plans for foreign candidates who require legal documentation, according to the GMAC survey. Data for Latin America has not been reported because of lack of response.

That’s the finding region-wise. But what are companies’ plans for international MBA candidates? The 2016 survey report says 24 percent of corporate recruiters report that their organizations have specific plans to recruit recent b-school graduates who require legal documentation, including H1-B visas and work permits. Twenty-eight percent of recruiters say that their companies are willing to consider hiring business graduates who require legal documentation. Put together, this means that a majority, 52 percent, of companies are upbeat about hiring international MBAs.

List of industries willing to sponsor H1B visas

What are the sectors with the highest number of companies that plan to hire international candidates? Consulting leads the field, with 33 percent of companies in the sector revealing specific plans to hire candidates who require visas or work permits.

Consulting is followed by manufacturing, technology, and finance, with 29 percent, 27 percent, and 26 percent of companies in these sectors reporting specific plans to hire candidates who need legal documentation.

A few companies in the products/services (18 percent), energy/utilities (17 percent), and health care/pharmaceuticals (11 percent) also plan to hire such candidates.

Twenty percent of recruiters in the consulting sector, 22 percent in the manufacturing sector, 39 percent in the technology sector, and 29 percent in the finance sector say their companies are willing to consider hiring international candidates.

Products/services, energy/utilities, and health care/pharmaceuticals sectors are also ready to consider hiring candidates who require visas—31 percent of companies in each of these sectors reported this recruitment policy.

However, some disheartening news, again. The Corporates Recruiters Survey Report notes that a good number of companies in all these sectors have no plans to recruit international candidates who require legal documents.

Forty-seven percent of consulting companies, 49 percent of manufacturing companies, 34 percent of technology companies, 45 percent of finance companies, 50 percent of products/services companies, 52 percent of energy/utilities companies, and 57 percent of health-care/pharmaceuticals companies have no plans to recruit candidates who need work-permits/visas.

Unfulfilled dreams for international Masters students in USA

These figures highlight the very real possibility that many international graduates of b-schools won’t be able to live out their dream of working in the US. As a substantial number of companies in Europe and Asia-Pacific are also not considering hiring international master’s holders, foreign students graduating from these schools face the same predicament as their counterparts in the US.

For obvious reasons, b-schools don’t highlight the visa problem to applicants, and its enormity becomes evident only when students graduate and start looking for work. As schools and universities in the US and Europe are admitting more and more international students, the visa problem will only worsen.

An article in an MBA social network website quoted GMAC Research Director Gregg Schoenfeld as saying that in the US and some other regions of the world, companies find it difficult to place international students because of legal requirements such as work permits and visas.

Denial of visa to stay on and work in the US may ruin the plans of many students. Poets and Quants narrates the tribulations of Sudhanshu Shekhar, an Indian student who graduated with top credentials from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and was recruited by a subsidiary of Pricewaterhouse Coopers, Strategy&.

He failed to win an H-1B visa under the controversial lottery scheme, which considers international MBAs on par with foreign mid-level IT workers. Shekhar, who then applied for a Dutch visa to work for Strategy& in Amsterdam, rues that he hasn’t been given an opportunity to contribute to the US economy, which he has learned so much about.

To demystify the US visa rules: Foreign students go there on an F-1 visa, which allows them to work in the country in a related field for a year on an OPT (optional practical training) visa after graduation. Graduates with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) degrees can apply for an extended OPT visa, but not MBAs.

After a year, international graduates must upgrade their visas to H-1B status, which allows foreign nationals to work in specialty fields in the US. In 2015, the maximum limit for H-1B visas was 65,000, with an additional 20,000 visas for candidates with advanced US degrees. The US government received 233,000 applications that year, and 85,000 visas were granted through the visa lottery. So, only about one in three applicants win a visa.

Shekhar cautions international students to go to the US with both eyes open to the possibility that they may not get an H-1B visa. Some of his friends at Harvard Business School and Chicago Booth have also failed to get work visas. Most of them had never even considered the possibility of not getting a visa.

International graduates who are unable to stay on for work are forced to return to their home countries for lower-paying jobs. But, from their schools, they find it difficult to start searching for opportunities in their homeland. The much lower salaries in their own countries make their student loan repayment more burdensome besides throwing their career plans into disarray.

Not only international MBA graduates, post-MBA entrepreneurs, too, are forced to move out of the US to launch their startups. But they find other, more welcoming countries, such as Canada. Apparently, a billboard has been put up on a freeway near Silicon Valley inviting failed H-1B visa applicants to launch a startup in that country. It says: “H-1B problems? PIVOT to Canada”!

All this is obviously at the cost of the US economy and at least some students’ future. Meanwhile, critics of the H-1B visa allege that the visa policy is used to layoff American workers and replace them with lower-cost foreign workers. But is denying visas to meritorious graduates and feisty entrepreneurs helping America?
Resources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

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Sameer Kamat //
Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Connect with me: Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Youtube
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  1. Armaan Ghai says:

    Hi Sameer,

    Very important and informative article. Just a quick couple of questions:

    1. Does an MBA in business analytics or in information science fall under STEM category?

    2. Is it easy to apply for a Canadian work visa?

    • Olumide Okeowo says:

      Yes. Once there was any Programming course like R, Python, Java, then the candidate is suited for STEM.

  2. Rakshith says:

    Thanks for the great article Sameer!

    The H1B visa problem is very real. I am an MBA aspirant and am very hesitant to apply to any US schools for this very reason. Please suggest ways to circumvent this problem?

  3. Sameer Kamat says:

    @Armaan: MBA programs don’t fall under STEM. Which means the OPT period will be shorter. And yes, Canadian work visa is easier.

    @Rakshit: A few things you can do to reduce the (financial) risk:
    1. Aim for programs where you are more likely to get a scholarship or a research / teaching assistantship or any other form of financial funding. Here’s how some Indian students who’ve managed to get scholarships.
    2. Don’t take on a loan that’s too big to pay back in the worst case scenario of having to come back to India.

  4. Dan Beaudry says:

    This is a great article, Sameer. A good primer on what to expect in the U.S job market. International students can do everything right in their job search, and still be foiled by the lottery. It’s a tough road…

    Two comments:

    1. I wouldn’t worry too much about what a company says it “plans” to do regarding international student recruitment. These plans usually come from the HR department (which can be H-1B unfriendly). I’ve seen many sponsored jobs come from an enterprising student connecting with a manager and creating an opening – even at companies with policy against sponsorship.

    2. I also wouldn’t write off small companies. They generally don’t have unfriendly visa policies (because they often don’t have HR departments), it’s easier to connect with influential people in the organization, and students are in a position to guide the company through the process (instead of being thrown into the H-1B machine). Plus, the competition is immensely less heated.


  5. Savyasanchi tripathi says:

    Hi Sameer

    Thanks for this fabulous article. If I google any logical question in my mind regarding mba, I find a exact article on MBA crystall ball. That’s the great expertise u have. I have 680 gmat, already burdened with huge home loan..around 55 lac….have a 6 months old baby. under this situation i cannot dream for an MBA beyond 40 lakh tution fees. So in my list all top US, UK and Europe colleges are cut or many other top colleges are also cut. Now A few options i have shortlisted is IIMa, ISB , NUS, NTU… I just want to ask you..which one is better approach….doing MBA in top raking college from FT ranking but bad economy like Spain, Italy or else…or doing MBA from top college of job giving countries like Singapore, Canada or Australia whatever is the ranking in FT list. My first priority is having job and to settle in abroad…

  6. Sameer Kamat says:

    @Rohit and Arun: An Executive MBA is part-time in nature and cannot give you all that a full-time MBA can. It may help you gain some brownie points within your existing company and open up the doors for new opportunities, if the HR team recognises the value of the degree.

    @Ashwini: I have not hear of that university. Can’t be of much help. Sorry!

    @Sriniwas: Most folks that I know of who’ve attended the satellite course haven’t exactly had a transformative experience, and that doesn’t come as a surprise.

    @Sandesh: A one year MBA would be a good fit for your experience. Here’s list of the top programs in India and the rest of the world to get you started:

  7. vivek says:

    Hi Sameer

    I have been working as a DCS/Control engineer with a reputed MNC, and have 6+ years of working experience in the field of process control and to be precise I am a DCS application engineer with a rich experience in commissioning. I have been planning to get in the management field and for that I am at present doing my Executive MBA in operations management from IIM Kozhikode.

    However I am a little confused as to what job profiles I need to lookout for as soon as I complete my MBA. Also which are the companies which hire executive MBAs with technical experience

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